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Board adopts legislative positions

Senior Editor Regular News

The Board of Governors has re-approved a slate of 2018-2020 legislative positions as lawmakers gear up for the March 5 start of the regular session.

“The committee unanimously voted to recommend to this board that those be reactivated and asserted in the next biennium,” Legislation Committee Chair Michael Tanner told fellow board members December 14 in Naples.

The committee has been gathering consensus and updating the list of legislative positions since the previous biennial slate expired this summer, Tanner said.

The Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve the following Florida Bar positions:

1. Support adequate funding of the state courts system, state attorneys’ offices, public defenders’ offices, court-appointed counsel, and the offices of the clerks of the circuit and county courts performing court-related functions.

2. Support a merit-based process for selecting Florida judges through independent judicial nominating commissions and opposes any changes to the current JNC process that would impair the independence of the commissions.

3. Support legislation consistent with the Supreme Court of Florida’s certification of need for new judges.

4. Oppose term limits for judges at any level of Florida’s state court system. Recommend that this position be renewed for 2018-20 as “vital and important” to the operation of the courts.

5. Oppose amendments to the Florida Constitution that would alter the authority of the Supreme Court of Florida to regulate the admission of persons to the practice of law or the discipline of persons admitted.

6. Oppose amendment of Article V, Section 2(a) of the Florida Constitution that would restrict the Supreme Court’s authority to adopt rules for practice and procedure in all courts; further oppose any amendment of Article V that would change the manner by which rules of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, rules for judicial nominating commissions, or rules for practice and procedure in all courts may be repealed by the Legislature.

7. Support language in the Legislative Appropriations Act to permit the payment of government attorneys’ Florida Bar membership fees and continuing legal education costs from funds within budget entities.

8. Support legislation to create reasonable financial student loan assistance for all government lawyers and legal aid attorneys who have served in that capacity for more than three years.

9. Support adequate funding for civil legal assistance to indigent persons through the Florida Access to Civil Legal Assistance Act.

10. Support the preservation of, and oppose policies and procedures that have the effect of eroding, the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine, both of which are essential to maintaining the confidential relationship between client and attorney required to encourage clients to discuss their legal matters fully and candidly with their counsel so as to:

(a) promote compliance with law through effective counseling;

(b) ensure effective advocacy for the client;

(c) ensure access to justice; and

(d) promote the proper and efficient functioning of the American adversary system of justice.

11. To provide enhanced protection for attorney work product and attorney-client privilege, support amendment of F.S. §119.071 revising the exemption from the attorney’s work product of a public agency and support amendment of F.S. 286.011 revising the criteria for the attorney-client sessions of a public agency.

12. Support adequate funding of the Legal Services Corporation by the federal government and oppose any funding cuts.

13. Support an adequately funded federal justice system and judiciary.

Tanner said recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions prompted the committee to recommend postponing action on reports by the Special Committee on Child and Parent Representation and the Special Committee on Mental Health in the Courts.

The reports call for substantial changes to Florida’s child welfare system and the Baker and Marchman acts dealing with mental health and substance-use disorders, respectively. Tanner said both sets of proposals generated extensive debate and ultimately, minority reports.

After a lengthy discussion in the Legislation Committee, the board voted unanimously to table the committee reports.

Proposed amendments to “Standing Board Policies 900 Series, Legislative Policy and Procedures” were on the agenda for first reading and required no board action.  All proposed amendments to be considered by the Board in February were noticed in the January issue of the News.